News & Current Affairs

August 28, 2008

Democrats await key Obama speech

Democrats await key Obama speech

Barack Obama looks around the Denver stadium where he is due to accept the Democratic nomination for president, 27 August, 2008

Mr Obama has been preparing for the historic nomination acceptance speech

Barack Obama is set to address US Democrats at the party’s national convention, a day after being chosen as their candidate for the White House.

Mr Obama, the first African-American to be nominated for president by a major US party, will formally accept his historic candidacy in Denver, Colorado.

On Wednesday, he was resoundingly endorsed by ex-President Bill Clinton.

Mr Obama’s speech comes on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s historic “I have a dream” address.

The Illinois senator has won over many critics, analysts say, and is aiming to consolidate his standing within his party.

Hours before her husband publicly gave Mr Obama his unequivocal backing at the convention, in a moment of high drama his defeated rival Hillary Clinton cut short a roll-call vote to endorse Mr Obama’s candidacy by acclamation.

Coronation grandeur

Former Vice-President Al Gore is also due to speak on Thursday, along with Democratic National Committee Chairman Governor Howard Dean, but the focus will be on Mr Obama.

His much-anticipated speech, scheduled for 2015 (0215 GMT), will be the highlight of the party’s carefully choreographed four-day convention.

It is likely to have all the pomp and grandeur of a coronation.

It is only four years since the would-be president gave a headline-making speech at the previous Democratic Convention.

Questions remain as to whether Mr Obama can cement his standing within his own party, and reach out to those parts of the electorate that are yet to be convinced by him, our correspondent notes.

‘New approach’

Mr Obama made a surprise appearance on stage on Wednesday after his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, accepted his own nomination for vice-president in a speech that was sharply critical of the Republican candidate, John McCain.

Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States
Former President Bill Clinton

“We want to open up this convention to make sure that everybody who wants to come can join in the party, and join in the effort to take America back,” he said.

Mr Biden stressed the need for a new approach to help Americans struggling to make ends meet and to change US foreign policy in the rest of the world.

The 65-year-old foreign policy expert was chosen as vice-presidential candidate by 47-year-old Mr Obama partly on account of his experience.

Clinton factor

In an address that was bound to be closely scrutinized for signs of discord, Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, struck a firmly conciliatory note and stressed that he believed Mr Obama was ready to be president.

He said he was proud of his wife, Hillary – who had battled Mr Obama for the Democratic nomination – but that her supporters should now back Mr Obama.

Justin Webb
It was stunning – a moment of brilliantly produced political theatre and a moment to cherish forever
BBC North America editor Justin Webb, on the Obama nomination

“Barack Obama is ready to honour the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” said Mr Clinton. “Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.”

In American political parlance Mr Clinton “delivered”, and may now find himself playing a higher-profile role in the campaign to come.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton had halted a roll call vote – in which each state, in alphabetical order, declares how many votes were cast for each candidate in the primaries – to call for Mr Obama’s nomination by acclamation.

In a powerful show of unity, she said: “Let’s declare together in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate.”

The presidential election on 4 November will pit Mr Obama against Mr McCain, who will be nominated next week at his party’s convention in Minneapolis-St Paul.

The Republican senator has said he has chosen his vice-presidential candidate, and US media reports the running partners will appear together at a 10,000-strong rally in the swing state of Ohio on Friday.

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August 22, 2008

Obama set to reveal running-mate

Obama set to reveal running-mate

Barack Obama on the campaign trail on 21 August in Chester, Virginia

Speculation has been rife about who will share Mr Obama’s platform

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is expected to reveal his choice of vice-presidential running mate within hours.

He has told journalists he has made his decision, which will be revealed by text message to the party’s senators and supporters, and journalists.

Democrats gather for their party convention in Denver on Monday.

Mr Obama and his running mate are set to make their first campaign appearance together in Illinois, on Saturday.

“I’ve made the selection, that’s all you’re gonna get,” Mr Obama told reporters while campaigning in Virginia on Thursday.

Text alert

In an interview with USA Today newspaper, the Illinois senator said he had selected a running mate who was independent and would challenge him in the White House.

JUSTIN WEBB’S AMERICA
Hang on, I think that’s a text coming in

He added that he had opted for someone who would help him strengthen the economy, and was also ready to act as president.

But Mr Obama gave no clue as to whether he had notified his preferred running mate yet.

It is possible the Obama camp might keep the name of the vice-presidential selection a secret until just before the appearance in Springfield on Saturday but, realistically, that seems unlikely, says the BBC’s North America editor, Justin Webb.

The expectation is that during the course of Friday a text message will be received by those who have signed up for it, revealing the name.

Surprise in store?

The conventional wisdom is that vice-presidential candidates do not swing elections, our editor reports.

John McCain, file pic

But Mr Obama’s choice is interesting because it will reveal a little more about the style of the man and how willing he is to be adventurous.

Most commentators believe he will play it safe, opting for a governor, perhaps Tim Kaine of Virginia, or a political veteran like Senator Joe Biden.

Some Democrats are hoping he has a surprise up his sleeve – a Hillary Clinton or an Al Gore.

Mr Obama’s rival, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, has reportedly not settled on a running mate.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are reported to be under serious consideration for the role.

July 31, 2008

McCain camp compares Obama to Spears, Hilton

McCain camp compares Obama to Spears, Hilton

AURORA, Colo. – John McCain’s presidential campaign on Wednesday released a withering television ad comparing Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, suggesting the Democratic contender is little more than a vapid but widely recognized media concoction.
Obama’s campaign quickly responded with a commercial of its own, dismissing McCain’s complaints as “baloney” and “baseless.”

McCain’s ad, titled “Celeb” and set to air in 11 battleground states, intercuts images of Obama on his trip to Europe last week with video of twenty-something pop stars Spears and Hilton — both better known for their childish off-screen antics.

“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world, but is he ready to lead?” the voiceover asks, noting the Illinois senator’s opposition to offshore oil drilling and suggesting he would raise taxes if elected.

It was the latest effort by the GOP hopeful to cast Obama as a lightweight with little experience in leadership or governing. It also was risky for McCain’s campaign to both acknowledge Obama’s worldwide fame and depict it as a weakness rather than a strength.

Campaigning in Missouri, Obama said the ad was the latest example of McCain’s negativity — a theme his campaign has tried to stress lately.

“He doesn’t seem to have anything positive to say about me, does he?” Obama said. “You need to ask John McCain what he’s for, not just what he’s against.”

Obama also said the link to Hilton shows Republicans are leaving no stone unturned in their attempts to tarnish him.

“I’ve never even met the woman,” he said.

Hilton’s spokesman Jason Moore also commented, saying “Miss Hilton was neither asked, nor did she give permission, for the use of her likeness in the ad, and has no further comment.”

The Obama campaign ad, released hours after McCain’s, shows images of the Arizona senator with President Bush and accuses McCain of practicing “the politics of the past.” The campaign said it could air as soon as Thursday.

It was the second Obama ad in as many days responding to negative spots by McCain. But it was unclear how broadly the campaign intended to run it. The campaign typically identifies states where its ads air, but on Wednesday only said this ad would appear “in some markets.”

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said McCain’s comparison of Obama to Spears and Hilton likely would not persuade many voters.

“The typical viewer will fail to see the analogy,” she said. “Voters believe Sen. Obama is a celebrity, but not in the same sense as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. So when you are asking, ‘What are they doing in the ad?,’ it distracts attention from the message of the ad.”

McCain did not mention the ad at a town-hall meeting in Colorado, but reiterated many of his complaints about Obama.

“The beauty of his words have attracted many people, especially among the young to his campaign,” McCain told workers at Wagner Equipment, which rents and sells heavy farm machinery. “My concern with Sen. Obama is with issues big and small. What he says and what he does are often two different things.”

McCain ad paints Obama as celebrity, not leader

McCain ad paints Obama as celebrity, not leader

Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign released a TV ad Wednesday that compares Democrat Barack Obama’s popularity to that of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, and questions whether being a “celebrity” qualifies someone to be president. It’s called Celeb.

The ad also, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said, makes the case that Obama is unsuited to be president like those two young pop stars and that the Illinois senator favors higher taxes.

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor replied that McCain had launched “yet another” false and negative attack. Paraphrasing Spears, Vietor said of McCain that, “oops, he did it again.”

Wednesday evening, the Obama campaign released an ad, which it plans to broadcast today, called Low Road. It says McCain is “practicing the politics of the past” with his “attacks.”

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